About Stilgherrian (2008 version)

[This page is currently a year out of date but the basic facts are the same. Just skip the bit which talks about my plans for 2008, because they make it all look like a failure. However the photo is current.]

Stilgherrian: photo by Trinn (’Pong) Suwannapha, January 2009

I’m a Sydney-based consultant working at the intersection of the Internet, media and information technology.

Yes, I only have one name — a single given name with no surname — and it’s pronounced like this: [Quicktime .mov] Most people call me “Stil” for short.

I’m particularly interested in how new social networking and communication technologies are changing the way we work, play, socialise and organise our societies. Yes, I’m a geek — übergeek, some have said — and I majored in computing science. But I’m not that interested in technology itself. I’m more interested in the social questions.

What does it all mean for your life? Your family? Your business? Your community? For the law and politics? How will it change the very core of what it means to be human?

Two projects dominate my working life at the start of 2008.

My new consultancy business Skank Media will be launched this year. It’ll be an umbrella for work like my writing for Crikey, New Matilda and hopefully others — but the main focus will be some brand new projects. Stay tuned for details.

Meanwhile my IT business Prussia.Net continues to pay the bills.

Despite my nerdy background, for much of my working life I’ve been a media professional — as you can see in the complete list of my media output.

Personal

I share a home in Enmore in Sydney’s Inner West with photographer Trinn ’Pong Suwannapha and 1.95 cats. I read voraciously — mostly online, but also magazines, non-fiction books and cyberpunk novels — and dabble in photography.

Good food and wine continue to emphasise my waistline. Two sessions at the gym each week don’t seem to be helping.

Overall, I guess I’m just your average Stilgherrian.

The Back Story

Originally I’m from South Australia. I was born in Gawler, just north of Adelaide, but spent the first decade of my life on a dairy farm about 60km south of Adelaide at Mount Compass — a town whose only claims to fame are that it holds a cow race every year and that it’s half-way to places you might want to visit if everywhere else was closed.

I was educated at Prince Alfred College, not because we could afford such an elite school but because I won a scholarship. The experience sharply focussed my understanding of hypocrisy and the arbitrary nature of power and status.

I studied Computing Science at the University of Adelaide, and got straight distinctions in those subjects — someone even said I topped the course, but there’s no official confirmation. I would have rounded off a BA in Computing Science with a second major in Linguistics except that the course was killed in a budget cut before I could complete it. So I left without a degree. It doesn’t seem to have made much difference to my life.

After a couple of years working in the public service, I ended up becoming a broadcaster, first with community broadcaster Radio 5UV (now called Radio Adelaide) at the University of Adelaide, and then with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Most of it was as a producer of daily talk radio with what’s now called ABC Local Radio, though for one year I also presented a somewhat popular dance music program on Triple J called “Club Escape” which went to air only in Adelaide.

I left the ABC when it became apparent that “progress” there meant doing the same kind of work at different hours of the day or moving into middle-level management. Stuff that.

Instead, with a partner we started a weekly dance music magazine called The Core, which soon built a cult following and destroyed our relationship. But we successfully published it every week for two years before the toxic interpersonal atmosphere brought that to an end.

I was station manager at community broadcaster Three D Radio for a year, and did some other bits and pieces before moving to Sydney in 1995 when I was headhunted for the dot.com madness. The company I worked for spent a lot of money with very little result before it imploded. I learnt a lot, built some great friendships, and reinforced my sharply focussed understanding of hypocrisy and the arbitrary nature of power and status.

I’ve been doing freelance things ever since, mostly with the IT and Internet business which evolved into Prussia.Net, but also some corporate media work for little family businesses like Telstra and IBM.

And apart from that listing of what we could laughingly call a “career path”, I’ve had a personal life.

It was on a Wednesday, if I recall correctly.

[The 2006 version of this page has plenty of comments from friends and strangers, but feel free to add your own below. Be nice. Main photo: ©2009 Trinn (’Pong) Suwannapha.]

35 Replies to “About Stilgherrian (2008 version)”

  1. Hey just want to say hi…just found your link on the shutterbug thingy…hahha…cheers…yeah i haven’t done much landscape lately these day either.

  2. Wonder if they are going to run the shutterbuy thingy again this year. Let me know when you are free…..i just love the banks hotel…eiei.

  3. @Graham Bell: Yes, there’s a story behind Prussia.Net, but not an especially interesting one. My mother’s side of the family is Barossadeutsch, i.e. the Lutherans from Prussia who migrated to SA in the 1840s. When I needed to think of a name for the first network I put on the Internet, I remembered that the Prussians were also fine engineers — and the name was available since Prussia was formally abolished in 1947. The name stuck when it because the business’ network as well as my own.

  4. I just submitted this on another post but I wanted to bring it to your attendtion…

    For all those not invited to the Summit (yet), I’ve created an online forum to list your best ideas and vote on others. It’s at http://ozideas.wetpaint.com. Please check it out and submit your ideas.

    As a funny advertisement for the forum, I created a video of Kevin Rudd, Brendan Nelson, and Peter Garrett break dancing. You can check that out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQZa17-Dt_4.

    If you like what you see, pass the word around. The online forum of ideas will only be as strong as the number and quality of its contributors.

    Cheers,

  5. @Ture Sjolander: Ah, Google and other listings have very little to do with the tags you put in your web pages these days. Now it’s all about how many inbound links you have you our site and what sites they come from, how often the site is updated, the depth of material… a couple hundred different factors in Google’s “secret sauce”. You’ll just have to write more to beat me! 😉

  6. All publication is propaganda. All communication is pornography. All art is a political act. All business is Eros. All hail personal.

    The purpose of language is to exclude rather than include. Though purporting to enhance communication, language is merely one more tool to discern the “we” from the “not we”.

  7. FuriousEnnui – that’s a bold claim about language and how do you define “we” in that context?

    Stilgherrian – nice piece on the Web2.0 etc. Obviously not working for the ABC hasn’t killed you 😉

  8. Hi Stilgherrian — I’m an old friend of Toby’s as well — Chakriya. Don’t we all only have one name, but I remember you from his stories. Anyway, I’ve started a Facebook site for him. Feel free to add photos. I’ve got a few more to put up. I miss him like hell, and I still don’t know what happened — he didn’t want me to. And I’m not inclined to find out, because really I just want to remember who he was to me.

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=595104499

  9. @phen ohm ena: Yep, that’s me, the one and only Stilgherrian. You and I were both to be found on various Adelaide nightclub dance floors, for our sins. Good to see you again!

  10. Stil –

    Don’t think that we have ever met, but a few years ago you used to do “iRadio” for the Telstra KnowHow group. I was in the group at the time, and since spent two years or so as team leader. I am now out in the big, wide, wonderful world doing my own thing (see my blog). It looks like we have similar interests, but I am putting a major focus on working with sales teams and leveraging the Telstra experience.

    I just happened to pick up your Twitter ID from Mark Pesce’s, which I just pickled up from… (you know how it goes!) I had been thinking about touching base with you some time, as I suspect there may be future opportunities for iRadio-type programs (although probably online/podcast rather than CD). Would you still be interested in such an opportunity if it comes up?

    – Keith.

  11. Hey Fella, I just came across your website … and still reading with great interest…we worked together for a short time …. the “Tutoring…” thing in the Department of Aviation! Keep on shining … Andrew (now ‘retired’ but still connected).

  12. From Crikey‘s newsletter today:

    Telstra spinner Rod Bruem writes: Re. “Telstra holds back broadband speeds. Again” (Monday, item 1). Who is this “Stillgherrian” and why do you let him post reports on Crikey anonymously? His rants and raves are certainly not of the calibre of the legendary Hillary Bray. Could you please explain the rationale to your loyal readers?

    I reckon your bio above pretty much answers that question. Maybe Rod is stuck using Sensis’ search engine and hasn’t heard of the wonders of Google.

  13. @Andrew: Yes, that awful blooper from Rod Bruem is also the last item in today’s Comments, corrections, clarifications, and c*ckups.

    It doesn’t take much to find me. It works even using Sensis, ‘cos that’s now powered by Google — although Sensis defaults to searching only Australian websites and because my server is an a data centre in San Francisco it doesn’t show up.

    Still, I’m in the phone book. I’m in the business register. He could have asked. Sheesh, I was actually a contractor for Telstra Business’ marketing department for a while, so I suspect he could find me on their own intranet!

    Own goal, Telstra! I’ll be responding in Crikey tomorrow.

  14. Hey still

    If you only have one name and no surname how do you get things like hmm say a Drivers license ? do people question you about this ?

    It reminds me of the guy from the Movie Super bad called “McLOVIN”

  15. @Matt Tulk: Births, deaths and marriages and things like name registration are covered by state law, and what I’m about to say applies to South Australian law. Essentially you can legally call yourself anything you like as long as it’s not “obscene” or “frivolous”. There’s no requirement for the name to consist of any particular structure or number of words.

    I don’t have a driver’s license, but my Medicare and Passport just show the single name. Those government systems are required to handle everybody, so they’ve been set up to cope. They don’t bat an eyelid.

    Other organisations sometimes have problems. Obviously many of them have “surname” as a required field in their database — which is actually wrong, since a surname is not required by law. I politely remind them that they are required by law to record my name correctly.

    Depending on how much of a hurry I’m in, I tell them either to do whatever they need to do to get the data entry to work (such as doubling the name to “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian”), through to asking them to put in writing the fact that their systems can’t cope “so I can avoid any problems doing business with you in the future”.

    I understand that the commonwealth government did extensive research on naming practices prior to introducing Medicare — indeed I spoke to one of their programmers, and she was proud of the flexibility they’d built into their systems. It’s a shame that other departments and corporations haven’t done the same.

  16. Hi Still
    so did you decide to change your name when you lived in SA or were you given this name at Birth ?

    I find it fascinating as I don’t know anyone who does not have a surname so I am interested, I hope it doesn’t sound like I am prying.

    Matt

  17. @Matt Tulk: No problem at all. This is all public knowledge. It’s not the name given to me by my parents. It was adopted by me on the Winter Solstice in 1981. I was part of a nest of Dungeons & Dragons players [shoosh!] and a friend coined the name for me. It stuck, I adopted it legally as a symbol of change and new beginnings.

    Someone, either the Australian Tax Office or Medicare, told me there’s typically between a dozen and two dozen people with just a single given name at any one time. That was a while back, though. Apparently now there are also some migrants from remote Indonesian villages where it’s usual to have only one given name.

  18. Dear Mr Stilgherrian, please forgive me for not knowing who you are, not having Googled you and for spelling your name wrong. I hope you can forgive me for thinking Stilgherrian was a pseudonym — people spell my name wrong all the time, so I know how frustrating it is — and my parents gave me three names, not just one!

    As a loyal Crikey reader my beef was actually with them for not having properly introduced you to readers, given you were honoured with the lead story in the newsletter earlier in the week. Now I’ve seen your website and read your qualifications I can better understand where you’re coming from.

    Yes I strongly disagree with some of your commentary, I think you misrepresented Sol Trujillo’s recent comments about what Telstra would do when faced with competition from another company building a national broadband network in competition with Telstra. You suggested Telstra was holding back an upgrade to the HFC cable, when in fact Telstra has upgraded the cable to much faster speeds than Optus, its nearest competitor. Is Optus holding Australia back even more?? It would be logical for Telstra to put on hold further upgrades when it had the potential to build the NBN. Now that is out of the question, Telstra of course looks to ‘Plan B’. Isn’t that a logcial sequence?

    You also suggest Telstra has held Australia back when it comes to faster broadband. I disagree with that view. The rules and policy settings are made by the Government. In most instances Telstra has led the way, in wireless we’re leading the world. But investment in the fixed network is complicated by many factors, especially the fact the rules force Telstra to subsidise competitors.

    Telstra, as a private company has to compete and play by the rules. If things aren’t working, if investment isn’t happening, it’s silly to point the finger at the players rather than the referee. Companies make decisions based on how they think they can best make returns in the competitive marketplace. The rules as they stand have discouraged investment by allowing other companies to get a free ride on Telstra’s investments. If you want to attach more sinister overtones to how companies behave, you’re living in a conspiracy dream world, in my view.

    Best wishes,
    Rod Bruem

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